The Road From CES Leads To NAB

Following the myriad of transitions in media production and distribution, is a combination of new technologies that create media and ones that support the consumption of media. Since the creation of media is mostly intended for the audience, the technologies needed to create the media are pretty important even while the consumer has no idea what it takes.

So, when manufacturers introduce new technologies at CES, usually the same manufacturer has an ace up their sleeve about a technology they will be introducing or promoting at NAB.

One of these is HDR, with the advancements in imaging sensors, cameras are inherently able to produce a broader dynamic range. On the audience side, if a television aka monitor is not HDR ready, it doesn’t matter. An interesting marketing statistic is that there are over 1.7 billion large screen televisions and about 1.5 billion of them are NOT HDR ready. That’s not a technology problem.

ATSC3.0 has the same challenges. With ATSC3.0, a set top box (yes another one) can solve that issue, by outputting ATSC1.0 to the 1.7 Billion consumers that do NOT have an ATSC3.0 device. In the ATSC3.0 vs. 5G competition, one interesting question will be if the phone manufacturers and carriers will consider putting an ATSC3.0 receiver chip in one of their devices that directly competes with their 5G service offerings. Hmm! Also, is ATSC3.0 enough of a compelling story to convince consumers to toss their perfectly good TV for a few new features.

I am not leaving out 5G which has the same challenges as ATSC3.0 and HDR, 5G is not compatible with current 4G devices, so acceptance is as much about consumers buying new devices as it is about getting it to work and be fully implemented.

Moving on to the creation side of technology (NAB), SMPTE ST-2110 is getting considerable traction and there are a number of new installations that are all ST-2110 IP. At the same time, PTP is now on V2, does that automatically update SMPTE 2110-10 and what about the first folks that went with V1? At the same time, while there continues to be these InterOp events, where all manufacturers play nicely together and are invited to bring their products and top engineers to make sure everything is interoperable before selling it to their customers. Getting SMPTE ST-2110 fully interoperable across everyone’s stuff is very much a work in progress and there is not a lot of good documentation on the parameters and metrics. Also SMTPE ST-2110 test and measurement is also in progress with a few new contestants showing promise. A statement made at a recent conference was that if the test and measurement product says it’s good, as a leap of faith, a maintenance engineer should believe it. I think we need to understand a little more about the legal parameters and what metrics is the test and measurement tool using to call it acceptable? As we move to IP, does that mean we only need to depend on the tools to tell us it’s OK and not have the knowledge to understand what that means?

One of the consistent challenges we have all experienced in all new technologies is the need for converters and adapters between the new stuff and the old stuff. IP is no different! Integrating IP into an SDI environment requires lots of converters and adapters. That’s a lot of rack space. So in the decision process during the design phase, how much real estate needs to be allocated for the converter farm to integrate IP into an existing facility or have the capacity in a new facility to accept content that’s not file-based or IP.

At one particular event when the conversation turned to 4K and 8K, one of the folks in the audience commented that his phone could do 4K so what’s the big deal, why does he need big cameras. I am sure the professional broadcast camera manufacturers could engage with differentiating between the quality coming from their product vs. a phone. While 4K is becoming a feature in new televisions, there’s not a lot of real 4K content, and it’s just another feature like HDR. Now let’s look at the Tokyo Olympics which will be producing everything in 8K for the 6 people that can watch it. In the sports production community, one senior executive said 8K will never leave the truck! The same exec commented that 8K needs a lens with infinite depth of field to the industry’s optical guru, who said it will never happen.

Another small note is that to view 4K as 4K needs to be seen, requires an 84” television, to watch 8K in real 8K, you will need a 200” television. That’s a lot of wall space. Also, while an 8K signal directly from a camera is 89Gb/s, YouTube claims it can deliver 8K at 20Mb/s. I am sure nothing is lost in that level of compression.

A friend in the mobile truck world sees 8K as a good thing for high frame rate camera work. This helps instant replay and tight zoom on contentious plays in sports events. This is more of using 8K in a pan and scan mode than taking advantage of the resolution it has.

Even as I am writing this article, one of the television manufacturers announced that all their 8K TV’s will come with ATSC3.0. WOW, so if anyone actually produces 8K content it will be supported by ATSC3.0, of course until then, you will need an ATSC1.0 – 3.0 converter to watch plain old TV unless you have cable, satellite, IPTV and/or streaming services, then it doesn’t really matter. It’s also a little unclear if ATSC3.0 will actually support 8K.

One of the industry’s leading engineer statesman mentioned his challenges deploying a global live distribution event for his client and insisting that all global venues conform to HD. He said that was enough of a challenge to achieve that and his client was staying HD for the foreseeable future and had no intention of moving to any K any time soon!

One of the interesting comments supported by many in the industry is that with a good high resolution monitor, ie 4K or 8K and a 1080P signal, prevailing wisdom across the broadcast community is it will look amazingly good. And 1080P is very achievable.

Of course there’s lots of new technology at CES that doesn’t impact the professional broadcast industry. For this article, I think it’s prudent to steer clear of them!!!

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